Monday 5 December 2011

Learning to love gory films

This week is a week devoted to guest posts. The reason for this is twofold: firstly, the quality of the stuff that people have sent me is excellent. And secondly: I've got no ideas and nothing much to say on any subject, even film, this week.

Today's contributor is confirmed member of the Twitterati Jason - or, as his family call him, @mixmasterfestus - explaining how he came to enjoy gory films. Thanks to Jason!

This blog is a tribute. A loving, heart felt testimonial to a film that gave me so much and asked so precious little. It brought a lost child from the darkness to the promised land in which he now proudly presides. The film I refer to is, of course

My saviour
Yes, it's Starship Troopers. Paul Verhoeven's brilliant brilliant brilliant feature film retelling of a book I haven't read (go figure). I'm sure the book is delightsome. I watched it again recently and felt it prudent to write down why it means so much to me.

Now, I treasure this film because it taught me something, something I needed to be taught. All of Verhoeven's great films have a core message, they're a sci fi tilt on an underlying idea. Robocop, Total Recall et al were very idealistic films which complimented his visceral style with a strong commentary on a given subject, I thought so anyway. Whilst Starship Troopers has a great commentary about the folly of human's brute force approach etc, it wasn't about that for me, not when I first watched it anyway. Let me take you back...

When I was a kid, I had a problem, something I could not overcome and lead me to miss so many great things growing up. Now this wasn't any kind of depression, anger issues or any of that stuff. My childhood was a delight. No, my problem was something a lot more silly and baseless.

I was terrified of gory movies.

I could not stand them. They very idea brought me out in cold sweats. I would avoid situations when there was a chance people would want to watch them. Terrified.

A good example I distinctly remember would be a Cub Scout 24 hour charity darts marathon. How could you forget something like that? It's the scene, man. During this event the Cubs had conspired to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street {insert number here}. My gore alarm went off big time and I fled like a fleeing thing. I'd never seen the Elm Street films but I'd heard enough to know that it wasn't for me. I only remember seeing a bus teetering on a mountain. I now know the key to the problem could be found in this sentence

"I'd never seen the Elm Street films but I'd heard enough to know that it wasn't for me"

I'd never seen it. None of it. I had no experience to base my opinion on, so the idea I had formed in my brain was that if I saw some gore I would die the death of dying. This is how the irrational fear, a phobia if you will, was built. It was the product of an overactive imagination.

I'm ashamed to say this quite daft situation I found myself in lasted till I was about 14-15. I would take steps to avoid seeing anything remotely gory, I even shyed away from playing Mortal Kombat II. It was a sorry state of affairs.

I also remember looking at a book in the library about cinema, in particular a picture from Robocop. It was Alex Murphy just after he had been shot to bits. I was looking at it, it wasn't very gory but I was thinking, "I can never watch this, ever". Even films like Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park were a no go. Looking back now it was all very very silly.

My lowest point came when watching the film Glory, a 1989 film about the American Civil War starring Ferris Bueller (Save Ferris!).

My lowest point
It was a school History class and there were roughly 40 of us sat in a small room on a blazing summer's day. I was already a bit shaky when someone's head was blown up by a cannon when it happened. A man was having his leg amputated, screaming and shouting, the whole shooting match. Then it happened, as a shower of blood hit the curtain there was an very loud *bang* in the classroom.

I fainted

The bang was the connection between my head and the desk. Oh what a silly billy I felt. Imagine feinting whilst watching a film about the American Civil War. It still shames me now, but all was not lost. From my squallid pit of baseless fear, I had a presto chango revelatory moment.

I remember it like it was yesterday. My dad, my mate Rich (who was the complete opposite of me gore wise) and I settled down one evening to watch Starship Troopers. I'd never seen it, heard of it or about it before. Little did I know my self respect was going to rise like a Phoenix. The film started and after the first little propaganda splash, this happened:

The Moment
Suddenly everything, everywhere, was gore gore gore. The thing about Starship Troopers for those that haven't seen it (shame on you) is it, so gory, so quickly that you don't really have a chance but to watch it. Well I say 'so gory' it's not that bad really. But that's kind of the point, I saw it for what it was.

As the film went on. I learned what movie gore was all about. Moments like this:


and this:

rainbows (they sucked out his BRAINS)
I think it's Verhoeven's visual style. It's quite exaggerated but and feels almost comic like in it's application. Moments in Total Recall and Robocop are quite the same, it's really fierce but so overblown that it makes it hard to take it truly seriously. The brain sucking bit still creeped me out but hey, dolly steps.

The main thing was the immediacy. It was as if someone had strapped me down like Alex in A Clockwork Orange and forced me to face this thing. When I saw it in the clear light of day, saw the limbs flying everywhere, I realised there was nothing to be afraid of. It's just effects. I was free. Free as a bird who'd just watched Starship Troopers. I think we can all agree, that's pretty fucking free.

I equate the feeling to like having just had a really good vomit. It is such a load off. You don't feel great but you know everything is going to be ok.

It was the beginning of a remarkable transformation. I now find all that I had feared as completely hilarious. During the The Devil's Rejects, I laughed like a loon when the woman got hit by the truck. Sweeney Todd, I was crying with laughter every time someone's lifeless body crunched in a heap when dropping into the cellar. Most recently watching Kick-Ass I guffawed as the gizzards flew. I might have a problem.

A good one to look out for is:

Dead Snow
Dead Snow, a Norwegian film about Nazi Zombies and the glorious gory dispatch thereof. It's not so much a film as a showcase for new and innovative dismemberment. Suffice to say I laughed more than I should have done. You know it's going to end well when a guy has his head torn in half.

I still shy away from some gore, but it's all to do with context. I'm not interested in films like Hostel and Saw which equate to torture for me, it's uncomfortable to watch and tend to avoid it. Though saying that, I've been forced to face it in films like 28 Weeks Later and Sympathy for Mr Vengeance and I've come out the end having enjoyed it. So I guess I should learn from my own experience.

The point is, a whole new world of cinema was opened to me by Starship Troopers. I watched it a couple of nights ago and whilst the violence seemed a bit tame compared to some stuff I've now seen, I still loved it to bits. It shall stay with me forever. It opened my eyes to the glorious fountains of corn syrup and red food colouring, showing me that it is nothing to be scared of and for that I am forever thankful.

1 comment:

Jessica said...


Firstly why: I have never seen Starship Troopers but recently saw a thing about a thing and had pledged, just this very weekend, to watch it soon.

Secondly why: You draw the line between genuine, gleeful movie gore and pure torture pr0n like Hostel which makes you very, very smart.



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